I like to think of life as chapters in a book, often defined by the circles of friends we keep within those chapters. I had a certain group of friends in high school, for example. I had a different set of friends in college, and as college came to a close and my friends began to move away while I stayed behind in Davis, I gained still more new ones. Of course, there’s been some overlap; I can count at least four friends I’ve had since my first year of college, and I’m incredibly happy to have them in my life.
The current chapter of friends includes the ones I’ve met through the WordForge writers’ group. They’re all good people, and I enjoy being around them, even if I don’t get to spend as much time with some of them as I’d like to.
One of the friends I’d made through WordForge was Leonard Pung. Leonard passed away this past weekend after a brief battle with leukemia. He’d posted to Facebook on Saturday explaining his health issues. He seemed to be in good spirits, explaining that the doctors had caught the leukemia early and were treating it aggressively. Just two days later, he was gone.
I admired Leonard. He was a good writer, and his stories — especially “Crossroads” — are among my favorites. He was a kind, generous man, known for his Hawaiian shirts and his inexhaustible supply of awful puns. He was a good friend, willing to listen and talk. He gave excellent critiques to other writers. But the main reason I admired him was that he had the courage of his convictions and the willingness to follow his dreams. He gave up a steady and secure job as a teacher to literally live in a cabin in the woods to pursue his writing, then enter the Masters of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California. That took some serious guts. He founds his passion for writing late in life, but once he did, he pursued it with courage and dedication.
When I first heard that he’d passed, I thought it was a joke. Seriously. How could someone like Leonard die? Even as the messages piled up on Facebook, I had trouble believing it, until I finally called the hospital he’d been admitted to, and they confirmed it. I still expect to see a Facebook post or an email from him saying something like, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. It’s the sort of thing he would have done.
And it’s still hard. When I first heard, I burst into tears; and even now, when I think about it, it’s hard to keep myself from weeping. Never again will we hear a horrible pun (“Warning: Incorrigible punster. Do not incorrige”). Never again will he bring wasabi peas from Trader Joes to a First Friday write-in. No more car trips to Petaluma to see Christopher Moore on tour. No more. Last night about a dozen of us gathered at a local restaurant to remember Leonard and raise a toast. It was good to do that: we shared stories and a few laughs, and it was a healing experience.
So long, Leonard. I’ll catch you on the flipside.
Here are a couple of recent publications that you should be aware of.
I like saying that these authors are close personal friends of mine. That way when they make it really big, I can say, “Yeah, I hang out with them.”
What are you waiting for? Go read and enjoy!
A quick post while I’m on break at work…
Good things come to
is the essence of a motivational message I saw posted to Facebook this morning, and it’s something that’s been on my mind for some time now. Consider three of the creative geniuses (genii?) that I admire: Marian Call, Jonathan Coulton, and John Scalzi. All three of them have had considerable success in their fields: Marian Call and Jonathan Coulton are both Internet-famous musicians who are solely dependent on their music for their income, and John Scalzi is a bestselling science fiction writer.
It would be easy to sit back and feel envious of their success; I admit that I am, a little. But, then, it’s easy to overlook the amount of work they each put in: Marian Call is not only a talented songwriter and performer, but she’s also touring almost constantly and doing everything she can to promote herself and her music. Jonathan Coulton is the same way; the fact that his music appeals to Internet geeks is certainly important to his success, but so is his hard work and dedication to his music. And John Scalzi, of course, sweats bullets over his writing, putting in far more than forty hours per week on his craft.
It’s that sort of dedication which I sometimes feel I lack in my life when it comes to any particular endeavor, both in my health and in my writing (two areas where I’m struggling right now). So I’m considering a resolution for the new fiscal year, which starts on July 1 (which just happens to be a Sunday): to simply dedicate more time and effort to these areas. Which isn’t to say that I won’t continue putting effort into other important areas of my life (my relationship with my wife, my job, and so on); just to put more effort into reaching my goals in these two areas.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Check back later when I’ll post a blog entry about something that happened nearly six months ago.
Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Music: Random tunes by Jonathan Coulton
It was the first thing that Jennifer said to me when I woke up this morning: “Ray Bradbury died today.” It was a bummer start to the day, especially since I only got about two hours of sleep last night. It was one of those things that sticks with you all day long, and even now I sort of feel like there’s been a shadow over the entire day. Bradbury was an institution: he wasn’t supposed to succumb to something as banal and menial as death. Not Bradbury. He was supposed to keep writing forever.
Honestly, I can’t think of a thing to say that hasn’t already been said, with far more eloquence, by a host of writers, including Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, and the like. Even President Obama, our first geek President, commented on his passing.
Bradbury was a masterful writer; he handled characters and themes in skillful ways that most writers can only dream of. By all accounts he was a gracious and kind-hearted man. His insights into human nature, not to mention into the process of writing, were wise and inspirational. I’ve read most of his books and stories, and I’ve tried hard (without success) to replicate that almost ethereal sense of wonder and, yes, horror, that permeated so much of his work in my own fiction.
So, again: Dammit.
Rachel Bloom unleashed this (VERY NSFW) video some time ago. The fact that Bradbury himself found it “delightful” is testament to his graciousness and good humor. Bradbury had many qualities — not just literary — that other writers could do well to emulate.
RIP, good sir. I worked hard to emulate your style and voice in my fiction, but I failed. But thanks to you, I was able to find my own.
I’ve just put my little story “The Afghan Code” online. It was, once upon a time, intended to be at least a novella spoofing The Da Vinci Code, but I was never able to write more than this prologue. Still, I think it stands on its own.
Current Mood: exhausted
I’ve decided that I don’t really want to be famous, I just want a small but rabid coterie of fans.
So get on that, Internet, won’t ya?
Current Mood: working
Current Music: Various tunes by Nox Arcana
“The X of Doom” is the short story that I’m currently working on. I started it in January with the intention of finishing the first draft that month; it’s now the end of May, and I estimate that the first draft is about halfway done. Characters have been put into place, backstories have been told, destinies have been revealed, but I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen next. I’ve been staring at the document most of the day. I’ve added a few paragraphs, but I’m still at a loss. Maybe I just need to listen to some pirate music and get some inspiration.
So, in lieu of actually working on the story, I’ve been doing what I frequently do when I work on a project: finding celebrities who look like the characters as I imagine them. In “The X of Doom”, a young woman from the year 1973 named Deborah finds herself up against the Pirate Queen in the year 1769. In my mind, Deborah looks like Emily Browning, who starred in Sucker Punch, The Uninvited, and A Series of Unfortunate Events:
While I had Emily Browning in mind as the face of Deborah Skelling since the early outline of this story, I spent a lot of time pondering the face of the Pirate Queen. Up until the other day, I thought it would be Helen Mirren or Judi Dench. Then I realized that the Pirate Queen had to be younger, just to make the backstory work. So today I decided that the Pirate Queen should look like Jennifer Connelly (who starred in The Rocketeer, Labyrinth, House of Sand and Fog, Dark Water, and plenty of others):
And portraying Nigel Livingstone, who gets Deborah into this predicament in the first place because of his love for the Pirate Queen, is Jude Law, from Sherlock Holmes, The Holiday, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Because why not:
Okay, well, that was fun and a nice diversion. And now I think I’ll either get back to writing, or to watching Food Network Star.
Current Mood: busy
Current Music: "Darklore Manor" by Nox Arcana
Okay, I don’t feel quite the level of angst that the subject of Edvard Munch’s painting seems to, but I still feel some, especially when it comes to my writing.
Of course, every writer experiences angst of some sort when it comes to their craft. Is my writing good enough? Will the editors like this one? Even best-selling authors with a vastly successful track record must feel some of this when they’re working on a new project. Maybe this one isn’t as good as the ones before? Will this one find a home? Will this one even sell?
My own angst generally comes down to this question: what in the world have I written? And where can I possibly send it? It actually comes down to a question of genre… and the fact that I have no idea what genre many of stories fit into. For example, my story “Teh K1ng in Y3ll0w” is nominally a Lovecraftian pastiche, but it’s also a caper story and a comedic piece. Where would it go? It wouldn’t go to any of the major horror markets (unless they have a remarkably flexible editor), but it wouldn’t go to any humor markets either. So… What do I do with it?
Some of my mixed-genre stories have found homes (see my Bibliography page), but most of them sit in my files, waiting for that special market, the place that will take the sort of story I tend to write. Major markets, especially SFWA and HWA qualifying markets, tend to be genre-specific: Analog, for example, is geared towards hard science fiction. Asimov’s is a more flexible, but still expects science fiction primarily. Fantasy and Science Fiction is, well, geared toward fantasy and science fiction. It might be a good home for “The X of Doom” when I finish that one, but, again, “Teh K1ng in Y3ll0w” probably won’t work there.
When it comes to novels, I think I’m in better shape. Novelists like Tom Holt, Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman have all written the kind of humor-focused genre-crossing novels that I write, so if I can honestly compare my writing to theirs, I’ll be in good shape. It’s just my short stories that are homeless.
Webzines come and go, and stories published in them can be victims of domain expirations, site collapses, and so on. I’ve rescued two of my old published stories, and I am putting them online for your enjoyment.
The first is “The Unrevealed Tort, Revealed“. This story appears to be about two men, one of whom is on a horse, having an argument over fish. I’m not positive about that, though. You’ll have to read it for yourself. I can tell you, though, that this story has been favorably compared to Terry Pratchett and Monty Python. This story was published in a webzine called Sorcery and Science. The ‘zine is no longer being published, and the domain has expired, but I want this story to live on. So here it is.
The second story I’m putting online is “Who Remembers Molly“. This story was originally published online at The Harrow (a fine horror webzine which has, unfortunately, folded, and the site the victim of hackers), as well as in a collection of retold urban legends called Don’t Turn the Lights On (which you can purchase over at Amazon.com; the profits go to help the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah). Molly has shown up in a few of my stories, and this story is part of a cycle that I’m putting together called The Winds of Patwin County.
Current Mood: busy
Current Music: "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" from O Brother Where Art Thou
When I was trying to compose the greatest blog post in the history of the world, nothing came to mind. So I present Tenacious D and “Tribute”, which has been my earworm all morning. Enjoy.
In other news I had no idea until a couple of weeks ago that Jack Black was involved with Tenacious D. When it comes to pop culture, I’m just a failure.
Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Tenacious D - "Tribute"
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